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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
Megalomyrmex foreliMegalomyrmex foreli

Rachelle M. M. Adams, SI Postdoctoral Fellow

  • Phone:
    202-633-1002 (office)
    301-238-1078 (lab)
  • Fax:
  • E-mail Address:
  • USPS Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    PO Box 37012, MRC 188
    Washington, DC 20013-7012
  • Shipping Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    National Museum of Natural History
    10th & Constitution NW
    Washington, DC 20560-0188
  • Education:
    PhD University of Texas, Austin
    BA University of Montana
Racelle Adams

NOTE: While Rachelle continues in her role as a SI Molecular Evolution Postdoctoral Fellow, she is currently also a Marie-Cure Postdoctoral Fellow working at the Centre for Social Evolution, University of Copenhagen in Denmark. You can find her at:

Research Interests:

  • My research interests encompass the integration of three fields, chemical ecology, behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology. At the Smithsonian, my project focuses on the evolution of social parasitism and reproductive strategies in ants.

    The ant tribe Solenopsidini comprises 11 biologically fascinating genera containing 1,041 species and subspecies. Many are involved in socially parasitic relationships (social parasites exploit other ant colonies, negatively impacting the host’s fitness). The tribe also contains a large number of species with alternative reproductive strategies. Rather than producing a typical winged queen, colonies rely on wingless female reproductives to begin new colonies. Both social parasites and wingless queens have evolved multiple times within the tribe Solenopsidini suggesting a predisposition to such evolutionary trajectories.  Darwin’s Hypothesis (stating that social parasitism evolves from predatory behaviors) and Bolton’s Hypothesis (stating that wingless queens are correlated with colony fission behavior) are two hypotheses that will be tested, elucidating the evolution of these interesting natural history characters. In addition, this project will help to resolve some of the taxonomic challenges of this tribe by providing a well sampled phylogeny from eight genes.


    Adams, R.M.M., Jones, T.H., Longino, J.T., Weatherford, R.G. and Mueller, U.G. 2015. Alkaloid Venom Weaponry of Three Megalomyrmex Thief Ants and the Behavioral Response of Cyphomyrmex costatus Host Ants. Journal of Chemical Ecology,doi:10.1007/s10886-015-0565-y

    Liberti, J., Sapountzis, P., Hansen, L.H., Sørensen, S.J., Adams, R. M.M. & Boomsma, J.J. 2015. Bacterial symbiont sharing in Megalomyrmex
    social parasites and their fungus-growing ant hosts. Molecular Ecologydoi:10.1111/mec.13216

    pdf Adams, R. M. M., Liberti, J., Illum, A. A., Jones, T.H., Nash, D.R., and Boomsma, J.J. 2013. Chemically armed mercenary ants protect fungus-farming societies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 2013: 1311654110v1-201311654.

    Adams, RMM, Jones, TH, Jeter, AW, De, FL, Schultz, TR and Nash, DR. 2012. A comparative study of exocrine gland chemistry in Trachymyrmex and Sericomyrmex fungus-growing ants. Biochemical systematics and ecology, 40: 91-97. doi:10.1016/j.bse.2011.10.011

    Jones, TH, Adams, RMM, Spande, TF, Garraffo, HM, Kaneko, T and Schultz, TR. 2012. Histrionicotoxin Alkaloids Finally Detected in an Ant. Journal of natural products, doi:10.1021/np300485v

    pdf Adams RMM, Jones TH, Jeter AW (2010) Male specific tyramids from three additional myrmicine genera. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 38:454-456

    pdf Adams RMM and Longino J (2007) Nesting biology of the arboreal fungus-growing ant Cyphomyrmex cornutus and its social parasite Megalomyrmex mondabora. Insectes Sociaux 54(2):136-143

    pdf Villesen P, Mueller UG, Schultz TR, Adams RMM, Bouck AC (2004) Evolution of ant-cultivar specialization and cultivar switching in Apterostigma fungus-growing ants. Evolution 58(10):2252-2265

    pdf Mueller UG, Poulin J, Adams RMM (2004) Symbiont choice in a fungus-growing and (Attine, Formicidae). Behavioral Ecology 15(2):357-364

    pdf Dearborn D, Schreiber BA, Anders A, Adams RMM, Mueller UG (2003).
    Inter-island movements and population differentiation in a pelagic seabird. Molecular Ecology 12(10):2835-2843

    pdf Forbes SH, Adams RMM, Bitney C, Kukuk PF (2002) Extended parental care in communal social groups. Journal of Insect Science 2(2):1-6

    pdf Green AM, Mueller UG, Adams RMM (2002) Extensive exchange of fungal cultivars between sympatric species of fungus-growing ants. Molecular Ecology 11:191-195

    pdf Pröhl H, Mueller UG, Ryan MJ, Adams RMM, Rand S (2002) Microsatellite on Frogs Polymerase chain reaction primers for polymorphic microsatellite loci from the túngara frog Physalaemus pustulosus. Molecular Ecology Notes 2:341-343

    pdf Schultz TR, Solomon SA, Mueller UG, Villesen P, Boomsma JJ, Adams RMM, Norden B (2002) Cryptic speciation in the fungus-growing ant Cyphomyrmex longiscapus Weber and Cyphomyrmex muelleri Schultz and Solomon, new species (Formicidae: Attini). Insectes Sociaux 49:331-343

    pdf Mueller UG, Schultz TR, Currie CR, Adams RMM, Malloch D (2001) The origin of the attine ant-fungus mutualism. The Quarterly Review of Biology 76:169-197

    pdf Adams RMM, Mueller UG, Holloway AK, Green AM, Narozniak J (2000) Garden sharing and garden stealing in fungus-growing ants. Naturwissenschaften 87:491-493

    pdf Adams RMM, Mueller UG, Schultz TR, Norden B (2000) Agro-predation: usurpation of attine fungus gardens by Megalomyrmex ants. Naturwissenschaften 87:549-554

    Presentations for Professional Meetings:

    Adams, RMM, Schultz, TR, Brady, SG, Jones, TH, Longino, JT. Phylogeny of the tribe Solenopsidini and cryptic social parasitic species, an eclectic approach to species delineation. IUSSI XVI Congress Copenhagen, Denmark (8-13 Aug. 2010) pg 161

    Adams, RMM, Nguyen, D, Mueller, UG, Schultz, TR. Phylogeny of the ant genus Megalomyrmex: Implications for the evolution of social parasitism. Evolution. Moscow, Idaho, USA (June 12-16, 2009)

    Adams, RMM. Infiltration behavior & fitness impacts: A one-year study of the social parasite Megalomyrmex symmetochus and its fungus-growing ant host. Evolution, Christchurch, New Zealand (June 16-20, 2007)

    Adams, RMM, Dewitz S. Experimental test of fitness: Impacts of Megalomyrmex symmetochus ants on their fungus-growing ant host. IUSSI Congress The International Union for the Study of Social Insects, Washington, D.C., USA (July 30-Aug. 5, 2006)

    Adams, RMM. Unraveling the origin of social parasitism in Megalomyrmex ants. Integrative Studies of Social Evolution: The closing symposium of the INSECTS network, Helsigør, Denmark (2-6 Sept., 2004)

    Adams, RMM. Unraveling the origin of social parasitism in Megalomyrmex ants. International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI), North American Section, Arizona State University, Arizona (Oct. 7-9, 2004)

    Villesen P, Mueller UG, Schultz TR, Adams RMM, Bouck AC. The cophylogenetics of the fungus-growing ant genus Apterostigma and its fungal symbionts. Proceedings of the XIV International Congress of IUSSI, Sapparo, Japan (27 July - 3 Aug., 2002)

    Adams RMM. Agro-predation: a new form of social parasitism in a fungivorous usurper-ant of attine fungus gardens. International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI), North American Section, Huntsville, Arkansas (Oct. 5-8, 2000)

    Adams RMM, Mueller UG, Schultz TR, Norden B. Usurpers and marauders: The social predator Megalomyrmex sp. nov. (Formicidae: Solenopsidini) pillages both garden and brood from fungus-growing ants (Attini). XXI International Congress of Entomology, Iguassu Falls, Brazil (August 20-26, 2000)

    Kukuk PF, Forbes SH, Adams RMM, Bitney CM. Reproductive skew in a communal bee: evolution of cooperation among non kin. International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI), North American Section, Nashville, Colorado (Dec. 14-18, 1997)

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